Approximately 50 students walked out of about 2 p.m. today to protest an immigration crackdown and Georgia House Bill 87, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011.
The students gathered on either side of Campbellton Street with signs, T-shirts and a bullhorn, letting their feelings be seen and heard.
“Education not deportation” was one of the chants of the students.
"They’re out here saying they want education, and they're missing their reviews for final exams right now,” said Tim Scott, the principal of Douglas County High School. “I want them to do well in school. That’s what is important to me."
Scott stood near the protesting students but chose not to break up the group. He did, however, say school administrators were keeping track of which students were involved.
“I don’t want anything bad to happen,” he said. “I don’t want to escalate things.”
Scott said he knew about the protest in advance and was disappointed the students didn’t come to him first.
“They could have still done something,” he said, “and not interrupted their class time. If they would have asked for my input, I could have worked with them.”
Asked why they were out there, several students said they didn't know or wouldn't answer.
Jorge Lopez, a junior at the school, led the students’ chants by shouting into a bullhorn. Lopez wore a shirt that read "Undocumented & Unafraid."
Asked why the students were protesting, he said his education is under attack.
“I think everyone should get an education,” he said. “I don’t think being human is being illegal. Every student has the right to an education, whether you're undocumented or not.”
He said he did not care that he might be punished for his actions.
“Martin Luther King was arrested many times,” he said. “Eventually we will get our education and our future.”
The students were on the street for about an hour and were then escorted peacefully back into the school by the administrators and teachers.
"We need to show that we are the voice of the community," Lopez told his fellow protesters during the rally.
Among their chants:
- "Hey, hey, ho, ho, H.B. 87 has got to go."
- "Undocumented, unafraid."
- "What do we want? Education. When do we want it? Now."
- "Refuse the Georgia college ban" and "Refuse the ban."
- "Hispanic power," "Student power," "People power" and "Latino power."
Approximately 100 students walked out of Lithia Springs High School on Friday, said Karen Stroud, the communications director for the school system.
“They walked about a quarter of a mile away from the school,” she said. “Then the principal went out and told them to come back, and they did.”
She said the students had been warned over the school’s PA system that they would face consequences if they left class.
She said the punishment for either walkout would depend on each student’s individual case. Students with a record of misbehavior could be dealt with more severely.
“We’re not allowed to talk about the punishment of a student,” she said. “It will be handled on a case-by-case basis.”
She said the entire range of punishments within the Douglas County discipline handbook could be used, including suspensions and extra work at school.